The Five Best Phones of CES 2013

By Brent Rose on at

Compared to years past, CES 2013 was pretty light on phones. The focus was more on health/fitness gadgets and 4K UHD TVs. But among the few phones at the show, we some good ones. Here are the top five.

The Five Best Phones of CES 2013

ZTE Grand S

The hardware of the ZTE Grand S is really lovely. It's extremely thin and extremely light, yet it's got some serious specs. A 5-inch 1080p screen, quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, two gigs of RAM, a 13MP camera, 16GB of built-in storage and an SD card slot for more.

The software side was definitely disappointing. It runs Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), but the UI is ugly and confusing and there was a lot of lag. It probably won't hit the UK until Q2, so hopefully they can clean up the software before then.

The Five Best Phones of CES 2013

Huawei Ascend D2

Pretty much the same story as the ZTE, Huawei is trying to establish itself with the Ascend D2, and it actually looks really good. It has essentially the same specs at the Grand S above, but the Huawei packs in a 3,000mAh battery, which is music to our power-user ears.

The Ascend runs Android Jelly Bean, it has built-in augmented reality navigation, and split-screen multi-tasking. Plus: it's splash-proof. This was a lot snappier than Huawei's gigantic 6.1-inch phablet, which we were not such a fan of. No word on exact release dates or which network it'll be on.

The Five Best Phones of CES 2013

Lenovo K900

I'd better say this right off the bat so you don't get your hopes up: the K900 is not destined for the UK market. If you want it, you'll have to move to China. That said, it's gorgeous piece of hardware. It has a 5.5-inch 1080p screen, which is going to be too big for some people, but it's very easy on the eyes. It's super thin, at just 6.9mm thick, and it weighs just 5.7 ounces.

It operates on Android, and it has a 13MP camera with a Sony Exmor image processor. It's also running Intel's Atom z2580 processor, with a (rumoured) clock speed of 2GHz. If you ask real nice maybe Lenovo will make a European version.

Kogan Agora Phone


Kogan Agora

Kogan is a a budget Android smartphone priced to make the Nexus 4 look like a bit of a rip-off. It's a fairly modest piece of hardware, packing in a 1GHz dual-core Cortex A9 processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of on-board storage, and a 5-megapixel camera. But boy is it cheap -- at £119, this is the best deal you're likely to get on an Android smartphone in the near future.

The screen measures 5-inches on the diagonal with a resolution of 800×480. The device doesn’t support 4G, instead one slot is 2G and one slot is 3G. Yeah, two slots -- it's sporting dual-SIM capabilities. The Agora is running Android 4.0.4 out of the box, though Ruslan Kogan told us that he’s not sure about future updates to Jelly Bean and onwards, but is still in negotiations with the as yet undisclosed manufacturer.

From our hands-on, we left deeply impressed: though it’s worth noting that the camera isn’t stellar; the device is quite heavy; and the screen leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to viewing angles, for £119 are you really going to complain? The Agora is available for pre-order now and it ships in February for £119.

The Five Best Phones of CES 2013

TOP PICK: Sony Xperia Z

The Xperia Z, ultimately, is every bit as much of a flagship as the ZL. It has the same exact screen, guts, camera, and software. It does, however, add one very impressive trick: It's waterproof to one metre for 30 minutes. All. Phones. Should. Be. Waterproof.

This Xperia is thinner than the ZL, but a little wider and longer. There's also no IR blaster or physical camera button, and the battery is a hair smaller at 2330 mAh. It's just a gorgeous piece of hardware and it performed really well, so we decided to give it the nod over its brother, but it will come down to personal preference (and availability). The bottom line: Both of Sony's new phones are looking good.